48 Hours in Franklin – Mock Trial Final Four

In a period of about 48 hours over the weekend of March 17th and 18th, several Franklin High School student groups, teams, and organizations took part in various competitions and playoff games. Pantherbook is proud to launch a series entitled “48 Hours in Franklin”  that allows the students to share their experiences of those days.
Our second part of the series is written by FHS sophomores JoJo Yang and Krissy Stoyanova, who participated in the Mock Trials Final Four Competition on Friday, March 17th.

     To get in the Final Four you need to come out first in your pool of three to five schools. After that you must consecutively win three trials in a row. That’s three trials where a mistake could cost the competition, and it doesn’t get any easier. And that is exactly what our Franklin Mock Trial team did.

Often, people don’t have much more of an idea of what Mock Trial is beyond a few attorneys and witnesses, and maybe a judge with a gavel. However, it also involves a battle of wits between two schools, vying for the judge’s decision to land on their side, prosecution or defense.

In the case for this year, a battle hardened Afghanistan veteran named Sazer Larson is being tried for first degree murder. On a July 4th fireworks show, she claimed that she had a hallucination brought on by PTSD, leading her to shoot a high school enemy, Jaime Frosh. Now, everyone agrees that Sazer shot Jamie. The question is, did Sazer have PTSD? It is the prosecution’s job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she did not have PTSD, and prove that she had been planning to kill Jamie at the show. Witnesses, including experts in PTSD, are brought onto the stand, telling their side of the facts as convincingly as possible.

However, in Mock Trial, the conviction of the witness is not the priority. The winner of the trial is determined by points, up to ten for each role. Every attorney and witness is given a score based on their performance. Attorney performances are judged on their poise and knowledge of the law, shown through arguing objections. In order to get the highest score possible, attorneys need to think quickly on their feet, taking in the opposing attorney’s argument and coming up with the best rebuttal on the spot. Witnesses are judged more on their ability on portraying their character accurately, and fighting their opposing questions if needed.

Of course, it’s also helpful to be as prepared as possible, to limit the amount of times you might be caught unaware in the courtroom. That’s where practices come in. The varsity Mock Trial team meets Mondays before school at 6:15, but don’t worry, there’s free donuts. We also meet Thursdays at 7 pm, where there is still plenty of snacks. As we near the start of the competition, we start to hold captain’s practices, meeting at a mocker’s house over the weekend or a break. During practices, we have whole group discussions, but we also break apart into defense and prosecution, or even smaller, with two attorneys to a witness. The goal of these practices is to cover every eventuality, every potential objection the opposing team might try to throw at you. That way, come a real Mock Trial, you keep your composure the whole way through.

On an actual trial day, we walk into a real courthouse, and try to get as comfortable as possible on hard wooden benches. We flip a coin, and winners get to choose the side they go as. The atmosphere tenses up the moment the judge walks in, and the trial begins promptly. Notes are passed, whispers are said, and objections are emphatically declared as the attorney leaps to their feet.

Finally, the closing arguments are delivered, and the entire courtroom waits with bated breath as the judge leaves to contemplate their scores. When they come back, two results are declared- the guilt of the defendant, and the winner of the trial. After what seems like an eternity, the judge finally announces the result, and the winners share small smiles and sighs of relief. The judge leaves, and that’s when we can finally lose the solemn attitude and celebrate our win. The courtroom fills with excited chatter and congratulations from both sides on a job well done, and we file back onto the bus. There’s enthusiastic retellings of objections well fought, responses well said, and courtroom  you-had-to-be-there moments. And we walk off that bus victorious once again.